I know people don’t go to see Pitch Perfect looking for a deep meaning. You go for the music and the laughs (and even though it’s crass and ridiculous, it is funny, admittedly—and that from someone who doesn’t usually find that kind of humor funny). But, looking for it or not, this second Pitch Perfect installment did actually have a message.
The movie started with the Bellas on the top of their game, performing before a large crowd. They’d had some success and now they were on a roll…until their performance turned into a (comical) disaster. After their performance SNAFU, things got worse. They were humiliated, punished and stripped of their future performances. The only way back was to compete against the German group, Das Sound Machine (DSM). Fair enough. But you can see why, when they met DSM, they were primed to look at them with admiring eyes.
The Germans were impressive and intimidating. They had a much larger, co-ed group of vocalists. They were precise and intense and strong all the way around. And, as so often happens, the Bellas began to feel that they needed to be like DSM in order to beat DSM, and in so doing, they lost who they were.
This is the funny thing about identity. So often we lose our identity when we begin to admire someone else’s. We have a tendency to become like what we behold. When the Bellas beheld the greatness of DSM, they admired it. Admiration grew until they began to feel a need to become imitators. But they weren’t ever going to be DSM—it wasn’t them. And when they tried to become something that they weren’t, they fell apart. They were horrible at being like the Germans. It wasn’t their way.
Eventually, they turned to a former Bella for help. Aubrey had been there, she’d walked before them and now, with a little distance and maturity, she had a perspective they needed. She told them that they had to find their voice again. And when they did, when the Bellas remembered their sound, and personality, things began to click. They found their sweet spot.
It sounds like the message of the movie was to “Just be yourself”, but I think that is a bit too cliché. I think the movie was saying something a little deeper than that. Yes that, but also more. Part of being yourself is that you have to know who you are in the first place. That in itself is difficult. It’s best done when we know our Creator and what He had in mind when He created us. But, like the Bellas, we are easily distracted by other amazing people around us, people we admire, people we begin to think we ought to imitate if we also want to be great. That feeling is all the more tempting if it comes on the heels of personal failure.
Maybe at one point in time you felt good about yourself, you liked who you were and felt no need to be like anyone else. A lot of us had that feeling in our childhood, I think. But then, most of us have been in the Bella’s shoes. We had something awesome in mind, a performance, an accomplishment, something…and then we bomb. Maybe we mess up royally, maybe the critics blast us, or maybe we just get injured and find we can’t do that thing anymore that we were once so great at, that thing that defined us and gave us significance. What then? That’s when we are at our most vulnerable. That’s when we look around at the competition, the other people around us who people admire, the people we admire, the people we think we need to be like if other people are ever going to accept and admire us again. And we behold them. And then we become them. Or at least we try. And then really start to fall apart. Why? Because that glass slipper is theirs. It doesn’t fit us. We can never be a better version of someone else than they are. The copy is never better than the original.
Maybe, at this point, we do like the Bellas did and turn to someone older and wiser, someone who has gone before us, who knows us, and who has some perspective. And we hear them say, in their own way, “You don’t have a chance at winning till you find your sound again.” And, like the Bellas, we go on a quest—often it takes us (as it did the Bellas) into the wilderness, away from distractions—so that we can discover our sound again.
Did you know that God has a history of taking people into the wilderness so that He can speak with them, prepare them for what’s coming, reveal to them their purpose, their identity, their voice…that thing He created them uniquely to be and do? He does. He did it with Abraham, Moses, the Israelites, Jesus…to name a few. And in the wilderness, before they can learn who they are, or who we are, first we have to behold who HE is. That’s the first step, surprisingly enough, to discovering who we are. We learn who our Creator is. We are made in His image; the better we get to know who He is, the better we learn who we are. And when we learn who we are created to be, we find our sweet spot. Things start to clique for us.
I don’t know where you find yourself in this process, but it is a process that almost all of us go through at one point or another. We have some success and confidence. We lose that confidence. We then look around at others and begin to admire them and then (knowingly or not) to imitate them. That doesn’t work, so our sense of failure deepens. Out of desperation, we finally turn to someone else for help. We retreat to a wilderness of sorts to reevalute who we are. We return to our roots, our core, our own, personal “sound” and that’s when things begin to turn around for us and we find our sweet spot. It’s a pattern we see all around us, in life, in the Bible, in almost any good story… and even in Pitch Perfect 2.
Questions for Discussion:
- Could you relate to the Bellas in this story? If so, how?
- Have you ever been knocked down in what was supposed to be your rise to glory? How did you respond?
- Have you ever been intimidated by what you felt was your competition? Did you find that, as much as you wanted to beat them, you also started to imitate them? Why do you think that is?
- Why do you think going to the wilderness was so important for the Bellas to find their sound?
- Have you ever had to retreat to the wilderness (in some way or another) to find something you’d lost?
- Why do you think God has his people so often retreat to the wilderness? Why do you think that is where He often chooses to speak to man?
- Have you ever tried to be something you weren’t because you that it would make you better (more successful, popular, etc.)? What happened?
- Do you know who God created you to be? Do you believe God had a purpose when He created you that you can only fulfill by becoming the best YOU you can be?
- How hard is it to be YOU, verses trying to be like someone else?